One day in Munich, Germany: What to do and see in the Bavarian capital

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Munich is one of the best cities to visit in Central Europe. With fascinating museums, grand palaces, and lively, yet family-friendly beer halls, it would be easy to spend weeks in the Bavarian capital. But if you only have one day in Munich or even just a weekend, you can see many of the Munich attractions and even experience the culture and atmosphere of this beautiful city famous for its beer and its fun! 

About Munich, Germany

Munich is the largest city in the Bavarian region of southern Germany. Known for its culture, beautiful natural landscapes and centuries-old buildings, the city of 1.5 million people, is an incredible stop on any mainland Europe road trip. Widely considered the most expensive city in Germany, Munich is the tourist capital of the country. The city, made famous worldwide by its annual Oktoberfest celebration, is a beer-lovers, food-lovers, and museum-lovers dream destination. 

But there is much more to Munich than Oktoberfest. Being the third largest city in Germany, there are a lot of things to do in Munich for travelers of all interests and ages.

This one-day Munich itinerary covers the top things to see in the Bavarian city in a short time, how to get around and where to stay to maximize your one day in Munich.

Marienplatz
Marienplatz, at the heart of Munich. Image by ExposureToday from Pixabay

Our experience visiting Munich in a day

After returning home from every trip, I always realize there are things I would have done differently. In retrospect, during our trip to Germany, I would have spent more than one day in Munich. We visited Munich during a two-week road trip across Central Europe, which included a few days in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Poland. During our whirlwind trip, we spent one night and one day in Munich, so we crammed a lot into our Munich itinerary.

After checking into our hotel room and dropping off our luggage, we were off to see as much of Munich in one day as possible. While many of the attractions on our one-day Munich itinerary are located in the historic center of the city, you will want to start your day at Nymphenburg Palace, one of the most visited tourist sites in Munich. It is located about 30 minutes away from Karlsplatz by train or 15 minutes away by car. 

Our one-day Munich itinerary

  • Schloss Nymphenburg Palace
  • Karlsplatz Shopping District
  • St Michael’s Cathedral
  • Marienplatz
  • St. Peter’s Church
  • Viktualienmarkt (lunch)
  • English Garden
  • Old Town (Altstadt)
  • Hofbrauhaus (dinner)

What to see in only one day in Munich

With only one day in Munich you obviously will not be able to see all of the tourist sights or even spend an adequate amount of time appreciating the ones you do visit. But in that short amount of time you will be able to hit a few of the major highlights at the top attractions in Munich.

Schloss Nymphenburg Palace

Begin your day at Schloss Nymphenburg Palace. Situated in the western district of Neuhausen-Nymphenburg, you can easily get there using the Munich public transport system. 

The palace is a huge complex that could take a full day to explore. The 200-acre estate includes a Baroque palace and royal gardens complete with lakes, waterfalls, and even gondola rides.

A great place to visit in Munich with kids, Nymphenburg once served as the summer residence of the Bavarian rulers of the House of Wittelsbach. Built over a span of 60 years in the late 1600s and early 1700s, the palace is one of the largest in Europe. 

Schloss Nymphenburg Palace, our first stop during our one day in Munich tour.
Start your one day in Munich by touring the beautiful Schloss Nymphenburg Palace. – Image by Duernsteiner from Pixabay

You can take a tour of the palace with an audio guide that walks you through the history of Bavarian rulers and the palace itself. The interior of the palace with its ornate rooms and striking ceiling frescoes is a true sight to be seen. The English-style gardens give kids an opportunity to burn some energy and run around while you explore. There are also several museums in the complex that adults and children alike will find of interest, including a natural history museum and one dedicated to royal coaches.

Karlsplatz Square

After spending a few hours exploring Nymphenburg Palace, head to Munich’s historic city center where you’ll find many of the top attractions in Munich. Take the metro to Karlsplatz where you can begin a guided or self-guided walking tour. Karlsplatz is a bustling pedestrian commercial district with a lot of little shops, cafes, and restaurants. 

The entrance from Karlsplatz to Old Town Munich
Pedestrian only area in Munich

On a hot day, you’ll find kids running through and playing in a central splash fountain while locals and tourists alike gather and enjoy an afternoon coffee or meal at the cafes with outdoor seating that line the square. It’s a great place to people-watch, window shop, or enjoy a quick lunch. You’ll find everything from Prada and Burberry to H&M and TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in the US). There are also lots of smaller stores selling things like lederhosen, dirdls, and German souvenirs.

Kids playing in a spray fountain in Karlsplatz
Kids playing in the spray fountain at Karlsplatz Square.

St. Michael’s Cathedral (St. Michael Kirche)

Just a short distance up the pedestrian walkway from Karlsplatz you’ll find St. Michael’s Cathedral, or Michaelskirche in German. While the outside is pretty, it is someone hidden among the other buildings along the street. In fact, you may not even notice it if you don’t know it is there. The inside of the Renaissance-style church is much more impressive, however. In fact, it is quite stunning inside. 

the exterior of St Michael's Cathedral
The exterior of St. Michael’s Cathedral

Built in the late 1500’s, the church was damaged during World War II, but later restored to its original beauty. The church is free to enter and is an easy and quick stop on your way to Munich’s main square. Although it is the largest Renaissance church in the north Alps, touring the interior only takes a moment. But it offers a quick yet serene escape from the bustling city streets right outside. 

The crypt in the magnificent cathedral is the final resting place for several historical figures including King Ludwig II. Known as Mad King Ludwig, his eccentric lifestyle ultimately got him ousted from power after he was declared insane. Although evidence of insanity, along with details of his death, remains shrouded in mystery. 

Inside St Michael's Cathedral
Inside St. Michael’s Cathedral in Munich.

Marienplatz and Rathaus Glockenspiel 

Marienplatz is Munich’s main square. It is the heart of the city and is always filled with activity and vibrant energy.  

The New Town Hall dominates the square and is quite a remarkable piece of architecture. At the center of the town hall is the famous clock tower, or Rathaus Glockenspiel, which comes to life at 11 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. each day. Of all of the animated famous clock towers we’ve seen, like those in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and even the Astronomical Clock in Prague, the Glockenspiel is my favorite. 

The life-size characters spin, joust, and dance for several minutes as crowds by the hundreds gather to watch. The clock’s performance lasts for a full 12 minutes, giving you plenty of time to observe all the action and inspect each character on the clock. 

Marienplatz - one of the main attractions in Munich you'll see on our one-day Munich itinerary
If you only have one day in Munich, Marienplatz should be your one of your main stops!

In addition to the Glockenspiel and the gothic New Town Hall, Marienplatz is home to St. Peter’s Church,  the Column of St. Mary, and the still-in-use Old Town Hall. The Old Town Hall has a somewhat whimsical appearance, like a castle you would see in a Disney movie.  Built in the 1300s and redesigned in the late 1400s, the Old Town Hall sits at the east side of Marienplatz. It is a cute white building with spires at its peaks and an orange roof. One of the spires was also part of the first city wall. Today, the building is used by the city council for various purposes.    

To get a great view of the famous square you can climb the clock tower in New Town Hall or climb the 299 steps to reach the observation tower of St. Peter’s Church across the square.

St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)

Visiting and touring St. Peter’s Church is a must, even if you only have one day in Munich.  It is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Munich, and it is absolutely lovely!

The tower of St. Peter offers one of the most spectacular views of Munich. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to climb the tower because we were traveling with our 18-month-old daughter. She was too young to climb herself without taking a full day to get up the stairs, and our child carrier backpack was too large to fit through the narrow passageways that often require you to squeeze past other people going the opposite direction on the same staircase. So, we skipped the climb. But if you plan to climb the 300 steps and 184 feet (56 meters) to the viewing platform, there is a small fee of 3 euros per adult and 1 euro per child to do so. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Alps from the top of “Alter Peter” (Old Peter), as it is affectionately called by locals. 

If exploring Munich in a day, St Peters Church is a must visit.
The ceiling at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Munich is stunning.

Even if you don’t want to climb the tower, the church is definitely worth visiting. There has been a church on the site since before Munich became a city in 1158. Like many buildings in Munich and throughout Germany, St. Peter’s Church was heavily damaged during World War II, but has been restored to its original glory. The ceiling fresco inside the church and the high altar at the front of the church are particularly noteworthy and are considered masterpieces of their periods.   

Viktualienmarkt

The Viktualienmarkt is directly next to St. Peter’s Church and just around the corner from Marienplatz. This large outdoor food market has a ton of different vendors offering everything from gourmet meals to pretzels and sausages. Visiting local markets is one of our favorite things to do in a new place, and this particular market lived up to the hype. It is a great place to grab an inexpensive and authentic German lunch (or a pretzel bigger than your head). Plus, you will love the energy and atmosphere of the Viktualienmarkt.

Man holding a giant pretzel from Viktualienmarkt
The largest pretzel we’ve ever had!

Tip for those visiting the Viktualienmarkt: Not all of the vendors at Viktualienmarkt accept credit cards. It is one of the best things to know before visiting Munich. Make sure you carry euros because many places do not accept credit cards for small purchases. If you do not have cash on you, be sure to ask if they accept credit cards before you order. Ninety percent of people in Germany speak wonderful English, so you can get by without knowing German. Although we always recommend learning a few key words or phrases in a country’s native language before a trip.

A sausage vendor at the Viktualienmarkt in Old Town Munich a great place to have lunch during a day in Munich
A food vendor selling sausages at the Viktualienmarkt

English Garden (Englischer Garten)

Munich’s English Garden, or Englischer Garten in German, is comparable to Central Park in New York City. It is home to several great beer gardens, as well. This urban park is particularly a good place to visit in Munich with kids as there is plenty of room for children to run around and play. In fact, the park which is more than 220 years old, is one of the largest inner city parks in the world! 

English Garden Munich
Munich’s beautiful English Garden in fall. Photo by Michael Siebert from Pixabay

Whether you want to walk through the woods, take a stroll along the water, or simply find a nice grassy area to relax, the English Garden has something for everyone. Kids will enjoy the carousel, climbing up to the Greek temple, playing on the playground near the Chinese Tower or going for a pedal boat ride on the man-made lake.

Hofbrauhaus

A day in Munich would not be complete without a visit to a beer hall or beer garden. The city is well known for its beer and it’s taverns! And there is perhaps no better beer hall to visit than the Hofbrauhaus. It is the oldest and most famous beer hall in Munich, dating back 500 years. With live entertainment, food, and famous German beer, this is a must-visit for any beer-lover. 

A beer from Haufbrauhaus, the oldest beer hall in Munich.
A beer from Haufbrauhaus, the oldest beer hall in Munich.

If you visit Munich with kids, don’t worry! Beer halls and beer gardens in Munich Germany are family-friendly.

Shopping!

After a jam-packed day in Munich and a delicious dinner at Hofbrauhaus, stroll along Maximilianstrasse or stop off at one of the shops or department stores in Karlsplatz and at least try on lederhosen (for men) or a dirndl (for women). This is also a great time to pick up any souvenirs you may want to take home

These traditional Bavarian outfits are often worn to festivals and special events in Bavaria. After trying them on we later purchased a lederhosen and dirndl that will always remind us of our trip. We now host Oktoberfest parties every year for an excuse to wear them! It always makes us feel like we’re traveling even when we can’t. Hopefully someday we will actually make it back to Munich for the real festival.

Other things to see if you have more than one day in Munich

Munich is the tourism capital of Germany. While our one day in Munich was a blast, there is so much to do that we could have spent an entire week or more. If you have a bit more than just one day in Munich, here are a few more things to see and experience.

Munich Residenz

If you like history and want to know more about Bavarian rulers of old, the Munich Residenz would be the place to visit. It is the former royal palace of Bavarian monarchs. With 130 rooms and ten courtyards, the city palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Munich, drawing more than 300,000 visitors each year.

Asam Church (Asamkirche) 

We love visiting beautiful churches around Europe and the world. And Asam Church definitely qualifies as one of the most beautiful. 

The Baroque cathedral is probably one of Munich’s most ornate churches. It’s small and tucked between buildings in the heart of Munich’s shopping district, so a visit to the church wouldn’t take much time. Only a short walk from the Marienplatz, you may be able to fit this into your one-day Munich itinerary. The church was originally built by two brothers as their personal, private spiritual escape. But it was eventually opened to the public to marvel at its every intricate detail.

Andechs Monastery and Abbey

Andech Monastery is located just outside of Munich but would be worth a visit if you have a bit more time to spend in the area. It is a famous place of pilgrimage and one of the most famous monasteries in Bavaria. Built on what became known as the “Holy Mountain”, the monastery houses religious relics once thought to have been destroyed.

The abbey also runs a brewery, which may be an unusual concept to grasp for many visitors from the United States. However, in Germany it isn’t uncommon for monks to brew beer. While it used to be much more commonplace, Andechs is one of the only remaining breweries in Bavaria operated by monks. Their most notable beer is their dark double bock. 

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle is perhaps one of the world’s most famous castles in all of Europe if not the entire world. The 19th-century castle situated on a rugged hill near Fussen is so beautiful it was even the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle which is pictured on the iconic Disney logo. Behind the castle you have magnificent views of Alpsee Lake, one of the best lakes in Germany to visit.

Neuschwanstein castle
Adam Derewecki from Pixabay

Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle can easily be done as a day trip from Munich. It will take about 2 hours each way to get to Neuschwanstein Castle, but it will be well worth the trip to tour the palace which was commissioned by ‘Mad King Ludwig” as his personal retreat to try to withdraw from public life. Known as the “castle of the fairy-tale king”, 1.4 million people journey to Neuschwanstein to tour the castle and see the Disney-like setting.

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site

Located north of Munich, on the way to Nuremberg or Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the Dachau Memorial sits on the grounds of a former Nazi concentration camp. Established in 1965, this powerful and somber memorial walks you down the “path of the prisoners”. 

During the 12 years that Dachau Concentration Camp was in existence, 200,000 people were imprisoned there and 41,500 were killed.  While it isn’t necessarily a “fun” day trip from Munich, it is definitely one worth taking to understand the darkest chapter in Germany’s history and in our world’s history.

Where to stay in Munich to maximize your day

When staying in a city for only a short time, we always recommend selecting a hotel based on location and convenience. That might mean spending a little more to maximize your time. We stayed at Sofitel Munich Bayerpost Hotel which is located directly next to the main train station near Karlsplatz. This is an ideal place to stay if you only have one day in Munich for sightseeing.

Find the best hotels in Munich’s Old Town or book a stay at Sofitel Munich Bayerpost.

Sofitel Munich Bayerpost hotel
Sofitel Munich Bayerpost – a former post office turned luxury hotel conveniently located in central Munich.

Getting around Munich in a day

Munich, like many cities in Europe, has an incredible public transportation system. Almost all of the popular attractions in Munich can be accessed using the U-Bahn, Munich’s underground train. The S-Bahn, the city’s above ground railway, takes you to main hot spots inside the city and a few outside the city, as well. And then there is the tram, or Stassenbahn, which will take you to areas not serviced by the metro, and can get you even closer to your destination. But be warned, it stops much more frequently so traveling on the tram can take more time than taking the U-Bahn to a close stop and walking the rest of the way.

Additionally, Munich you can also drive or take a taxi in Munich, however much of Old Town Munich is pedestrian-only.

Have a question or comment about how to spend one day in Munich? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment below.

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This itinerary for one day in Munich was originally published in September 2016 and was updated in June 2021 for accuracy and current information.

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18 comments on “One day in Munich, Germany: What to do and see in the Bavarian capital”

The cathedrals are beautiful there, at least near the town center. Definitely worth a stop inside if you like architecture.

Definitely want to go back someday and spend more time there. I feel like we barely saw 1% of what there is to see and do there.

Ha! Thank you. Now we just need to go back to Bavaria so we can actually wear them. We went to an Oktoberfest event in the states and we were the ONLY ones wearing them.

I’d love to go back to Munch: I was there a few years ago (pre-kids) and I remember a great atmosphere. Unfortunately, it was also lashing rain and that meant a lot less sightseeing than planned! Lovely to have locals to rely on: some of my closest friends I met this way 🙂

That happened to us when we were in Dublin. Poured rain the entire time. In fact, it rained all but one day while we were in Ireland. ? I guess that’s why it’s so green there, but it kept us from truly experiencing a lot of places.

Interesting! I can see that this would be a great help if one had a layover in Munich or just a short amount of time. I for one would head straight for the giant pretzels! Looks like fun; thanks for sharing your experiences!

Yes, the giant pretzels are a must! Luckily, you can find them all over Munich. They are definitely better than pretzels in the US where I live.

I definitely want to visit Munich some day. There is so much history, art and architecture to explore. For 1/2 a day, you were able to fit a lot in. Just another reason to go back to Germany to see more of the sites on your list.

Agree! Of course, no matter where we go or how long we stay, I feel like we never have enough time to see it all.

I’ve never visited Munich and I’m not a big fan of Germany. But these Beffroi-like buildings are so beautiful!!! It’s very similar to Belgium. They also always put a lot of flowers there and I was very surprised by the magnificent personal gardens each time I went there.

I love the bell towers and the architecture in general. Very picturesque. And of course, flowers always add an extra layer of beauty.

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